Sunday, August 31st, 2014 05:32 pm
best of AUs: best thing ever

September is the best of AUs round at [community profile] bestthingever. We'll be sharing our favorite alternate universe fanworks created within a year. Come join us to get recs and/or share your favorites!
Friday, August 29th, 2014 12:53 pm
Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
volume 1, number 20
25th August 2014: harmless phantoms
What I’ve been up to

It's been three months! This is the last issue of volume 1, and next week volume 2 begins: it'll be more of the same, except that I'm adding reviews of some of the children's books I've loved in my life. I'll be collecting the twenty issues of volume 1 together in a printed book, which I'll be emailing you about when it's ready.

This week has been busy but uneventful, which I wish was a less common mixture, but it was good to drop into Manchester during the Pride festival. I apologise for this issue being late: I had it all prepared, and then there was a server problem, and then I found I'd lost one of the sections completely, so it had to be rewritten. Never mind: you have it now!

A poem of mine


My talent (or my curse) is getting lost:
my routes are recondite and esoteric.
Perverted turns on every road I crossed
have dogged my feet from Dover up to Berwick.
My move to London only served to show
what fearful feast of foolishness was mine:
I lost my way from Tower Hill to Bow,
and rode the wrong way round the Circle Line.
In nameless London lanes I wandered then
whose tales belied my tattered A to Z,
and even now, in memory again
I plod despairing, Barking in my head,
still losing track of who and where I am,
silent, upon a street in Dagenham.

(Notes: the title is a reference to Keats's sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer. "A to Z" is a standard book of London streetmaps.)


A picture
On-sweet bathroom

Something wonderful

In the poem above, I mentioned Berwick-upon-Tweed, or Berwick for short, which rhymes with Derek. Berwick is the most northerly town in England, two miles from the Scottish border. It stands at the mouth of the river Tweed, which divides Scotland from England in those parts, but Berwick is on the Scottish bank: for quite a bit of its history it was a very southerly town in Scotland instead. The town's football team still plays in the Scottish leagues instead of the English. Berwick has been in English hands since 1482, though given next month's referendum I'm not going to guess how long that will last.

As befits such a frontier town, it's impressively fortified, and the castle and ramparts are well worth seeing. But today I particularly wanted to tell you about the story of its war with Russia.

Fans of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, and anyone who had to learn The Charge of the Light Brigade at school, will remember the Crimean War, a conflict which remained an infamous example of pointless waste of life until at least 1914. Now, because Berwick had changed hands between England and Scotland several times, it was once the rule that legal documents would mention both countries as "England, Scotland, and Berwick-upon-Tweed" to be on the safe side. And the story goes that when Britain declared war on Russia in 1853, it was in the name of England, Scotland, and Berwick-upon-Tweed, but the peace treaty in 1856 forgot to include Berwick, so this small town remained technically at war with Russia for over a century.

In fact, the tale is untrue: Berwick wasn't mentioned in the declaration of war, as far as I know, though I admit I haven't been able to trace a copy-- can any of you do any better? But such is the power of story that in 1966, with the Cold War becoming ever more tense, the town council decided that something had to be done about the problem. So the London correspondent of Pravda, one Oleg Orestov, travelled the 350 miles up to Berwick for peace talks, so that everyone could be sure that Berwick was not at war with the USSR. The mayor told Mr Orestov, "Please tell the Russian people through your newspaper that they can sleep peacefully in their beds."

Something from someone else

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the doorway, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at , and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.
Friday, August 29th, 2014 08:22 pm

I don't understand the rational basis behind people's opposition to Anita Sarkeesian's work, if indeed there is any.

I grant that I haven't plumbed the depths of Reddit, 4chan, and sundry gaming forums looking for reasoned argument, because those places are fucking gross. But what I have found seems to be naught more than a paranoid chorus of "she's out to get our games!"

Some self-identified "gamers" seem to think that Sarkeesian's saying "Stop making games". She's not. She's saying "Games can be better than this. Make better games."

The myriad cries of "censorship!" and "political correctness!" suggest the perceived danger is that games will change as a result of Sarkeesian's critique—that the amount of abuse and misogyny will decrease, and that the number of female characters with agency and development will increase. This makes the rallying cry of "she's out to get our games!" sound more like "she's out to emasculate our games!"

I have news for you, gamer dudes. If gratuitous misogyny and violence is how you define masculinity, then you've got a big fucking problem.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 09:02 pm
It is done and handed in.

(A day later than planned because it just Wasn't Done on Wednesday. But he called and they let him submit it this morning instead)
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 08:22 pm
It was my car.

Something went wrong with the combined alternator/AC assembly. The belt came off, and the pulley is at an odd angle. Robby says some kind of clutch broke off the air compressor that the pulley is supposed to engage, which is beyond his ability to fix.

At least I was only a mile away from home when it went kablooey.
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 01:23 am
I spent like two hours making this. I'm sure there was some good reason for that.

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 06:00 pm
18 hours until the thesis has to be handed in. And no, it's not done yet.

Poor husband. I hope he can sleep all afternoon tomorrow and then we'll go somewhere nice to celebrate.
Monday, August 25th, 2014 07:43 pm
My ankle and side are still painful, but it's nowhere near as bad now as the first few days after the accident. But this puts a metaphor into my head. When I was told to rest and elevate my ankle, I didn't: I grabbed a crutch and went on with my ordinary life as best I could. It was foolish, but staying still for that long made me very anxious. In hindsight, I see I should have iced and elevated, at least for a few days.

And here I am also trying to get over PTSD/anxiety things, and it seems I have the same problem there as well. So, what's the mental health equivalent of ice and elevation?
Sunday, August 24th, 2014 06:29 pm
(in answer to [ profile] resonant 's question)

Some people in the UK get bills from their power company and pay in arrears. But people with bad credit, and tenants generally, aren't trusted to owe the power company money, so they have to pre-pay. In the old days the meter had a coin slot, and you'd put a shilling in and the power would come on for some number of hours. But the power company got fed up of sending people around to collect the money, so they came up with the key scheme. You have a physical object called the "key". When you want to prepay for something, you go to a newsagent's or similar, hand them some money and say e.g. "Please put £5 on this key". (The newsagent gets paid by the power company to do this; they don't take a cut of the amount directly.) Then you go back home and put the key in the meter, and the meter says "There is £5 on this key" and increases your prepayment balance by that amount.

For no reason I can discover, although our electricity and gas are supplied by the same company, the electricity key is a long folding strip of plastic containing an integrated circuit, but the gas key is an ISO/IEC 7810 card.

Prepaying for your gas and electricity in this way tends to be a lot more expensive than getting bills, but it's not easy to switch away from it.

Edit: Oh, this was behind the joke in "A Tall Story" :

Just as she’d finished knitting, the light in their room went out with a quiet click, and so did the lamp at the top of the tower. [...] "Don’t worry," said the lighthouse-keeper, though he looked a bit worried too. "It’s probably just that I need to put some more money in the meter. We’ll have it right as rain again in no time at all."

because it would be ridiculous to charge a lighthouse for electricity in this way.
Sunday, August 24th, 2014 01:54 pm
One of the minor annoyances I haven't mentioned before is that the letting agent switched us to a new gas company, who sent us a new meter key with a letter saying "This is so you don't have to deal with bad debts from former tenants." So I was not much amused to discover that the new key already had a debt of £73 on it. We phoned them, and they cancelled the debt, but it'll take a week to go through (because their computers are actually powered by gnomes or something). Until then, we get 10p of gas for every pound we put on the meter, because 90p goes towards the debt, and 10p of gas is not quite enough to run a bath. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if we had more spare cash at present, and if the weather wasn't starting to get cold.
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 10:52 am
There will not be a dev chat meeting today unless someone else shows up for me to talk to, because Mark and Fu are on vacation.

However, I will be around trying to hack on DW stuff for the next few hours, so come find me if you want to pick my brain about anything.

The next scheduled meeting time is on Saturday, September 6, at 12 pm EDT.
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 08:46 am
So, the husband found out that he doesn't have until Monday in a week to turn in his PhD thesis, but only until Friday, but, oh, the office that he needs to deliver the thesis to is only open Monday and Wednesday from 10 to 12.

Yeah, that was great news... He's pretty much working nonstop by now. The flat is in a state of chaos because I can't keep up with it and we have been mostly living off frozen food for what seems like months (well, I try to cook twice a week but that's more along the lines of "hot dogs" or "pasta with sauce" than what passes as cooking for other people).

I can't wait for this to be over...
Friday, August 22nd, 2014 12:19 am
Gentle Readers
a newsletter made for sharing
volume 1, number 19
21st August 2014: to cut a cabbage leaf
What I’ve been up to

I've been looking into PhD possibilities. But more of that later.

And we visited the John Rylands Library for the first time, a beautiful place in Victorian Gothic made as a memorial to a local industrialist. (The law students among you may know him as a party to Rylands v Fletcher.) It has an impressive collection of books and manuscripts, including the oldest known fragment of the New Testament, part of John's gospel copied only a few decades after the book was written.

As if that weren't enough, the building is quite breathtakingly beautiful. Here's part of the reading room:

The library also contains a dragon named Grumbold. Regular readers who remember Not Ordinarily Borrowable, a story of mine largely about dragons and libraries, may judge of my surprise to discover it coming true.

A poem of mine


When Merlin looked upon this land,
he knew by magic arts
the anger in the acts of men,
the hatred in their hearts:
he saw despair and deadly things,
and knew our hope must be
the magic when the kettle sings
to make a pot of tea.

When Galahad applied to sit
in splendour at the Table,
he swore an oath to fight for good
as far as he was able.
But Arthur put the kettle on,
and bade him sit and see
the goodness that is brought anon
by making pots of tea.

When Arthur someday shall return
in glory, with his knights,
he'll rout our foes and bless the poor
and put the land to rights.
And shall we drink his health in ale?
Not so! It seems to me
he'll meet us in the final tale
and share a pot of tea.

A picture

I was out fishing all day,
and I seem to have caught the sun

Something wonderful

Suppose I asked you to name the world's great heroes? (For example, as you may recall, some talk of Alexander.) Well, in the Middle Ages, a fair amount of thought went into the list. Who was an example of virtue and valour; whose chivalry was worth emulating?

One such list is known in English as the Nine Worthies. It was drawn up in the early 1300s, and remained a popular theme in art for centuries after. Here they are in 1460, looking for all the world like a medieval pack of Top Trumps:

Even though some of these men had lived (or were supposed to have lived) millennia earlier, they are all drawn wearing armour of the time, and bearing their own coat of arms, as if they lived in that very moment. This is because they are deliberately idealised-- after all, as a careful perusal of the Old Testament will show, not all of them were in fact models of chivalry.

They are divided into three groups of three: three Jewish heroes, three Christian heroes, and three pagan heroes-- that is, pagan in the old sense of not following an Abrahamic religion.

The Jewish heroes are: Joshua the son of Nun, who led the invasion of Canaan; David the son of Jesse, who became king and wrote psalms; and Judas Maccabeus, who led the revolt against the Syrians now commemorated by Hanukkah. (Don't confuse Judas Maccabeus with Judas Iscariot.)

The pagan heroes are: Hector of Troy, a great warrior of the Trojan War; Julius Caesar, the first emperor of Rome; and Alexander the Great.

The Christian heroes are: Arthur, the hero of the Matter of Britain; Charles the Great, also called Charlemagne, the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; and Godfrey of Bouillon, who became the first crusader king of Jerusalem but disclaimed the title.

I am particularly interested by the heraldry. How did they make up new and unique coats of arms for people who had been dead for three thousand years? David has a harp because he composed psalms (and not because he was king of Ireland). Julius has an eagle rather like the one on the Roman standard; Charles has the same, appropriately for someone who was also trying to become Emperor of Rome, but combined with the lily pattern known as "France Ancient". Others of them are baffling to me: what is Joshua bearing, for example? I did find a reference to the arms they made up for Alexander in a book, but frustratingly I ran out of time to research this.

I am glad to report that there were also nine female Worthies to balance out the nine men. Unfortunately none of the writers seem to agree about which nine women they were.

Something from someone else

When a certain Charles Macklin claimed he could repeat any sentence he heard, no matter how complex, Samuel Foote allegedly composed this sentence impromptu:

by Samuel Foote

So she went into the garden
to cut a cabbage-leaf
to make an apple-pie;
and at the same time
a great she-bear, coming down the street,
pops its head into the shop.
What! no soap?
So he died,
and she very imprudently married the Barber:
and there were present
the Picninnies,
and the Joblillies,
and the Garyulies,
and the great Panjandrum himself,
with the little round button at top;
and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can,
till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots

Gentle Readers is published on Mondays and Thursdays, and I want you to share it. The archives are at , and so is a form to get on the mailing list. If you have anything to say or reply, or you want to be added or removed from the mailing list, I’m at and I’d love to hear from you. The newsletter is reader-supported; please pledge something if you can afford to, and please don't if you can't. Love and peace to you all.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 04:42 pm
On Monday of last week, the Mac Mini in my home office lost the use of its internal hard disk. I knew it was just a matter of time, since its external hard disk had to be replaced almost two years ago, but it was a blow nonetheless. After briefly considering whether to try to pry the thing open to replace the internal drive, or to just buy a newer computer, I realized I could plug in yet another external USB drive and restore onto that. At this point it's starting to resemble a Frankenmini with all the various disks and devices it's got plugged in. But the internal CD/DVD burner drive still works, and that's a big plus considering none of the current Macs come with media drives any more.

Last night I got a message from my mom saying that her iMac wouldn't turn on. I went over this morning with a spare power cable, which worked, although upon reflection I realized it might have also been the plug on the power strip that went bad. She's going to replace both, grateful not to also be looking at buying a new computer right now.

I'm half-wondering if one of the laptops is going to blow up next. My MacBook Air has been remarkably trouble-free for almost 3 years now.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 11:27 am
I have been watching way too much tv and movies, so there will be a post coming about, at least, Fringe and Jericho. But for now, I saw linked somewhere an amazing new Iron Man vid by Lim: Expo by Lim It is everything that makes vidding beautiful and awesome and so very much movie-verse Tony Stark.

On that note, I know there are people here in MCU fandom. I've occasionally been craving fic in that universe, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to navigate that huge pile of fic, particularly since I'm bouncing hard off of ship-fic and that seems to be a lot of it. That and I Do Not Understand the obsession with Loki, who is a power-obsessed mass murderer and I have no interest in any story that pretends he isn't.

What I'm really in the mood for is a long, plotty character-driven fic I can sink my teeth into - relationships are okay but I'd rather they not be the main point of the story. Characters I am particularly interested in include Natasha, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Bruce. Anyone have any good recs?
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 11:27 am

I thought of a gap in English: it has no preposition corresponding to German “an”+accusative.

In some cases, what is one preposition in German with dative or accusative (for position vs. movement) is the same preposition in English (The cat is under the table vs. The cat runs under the table; The bird is over the table vs. The bird flies over the table) or is differentiated with -to for the movement version (The ball is in the box vs. The ball falls into the box; The pen is on the table vs. The pen falls onto the table).

But for “at”, there’s only the “position” meaning, and there’s no “movement” variant.

For example, in German, you could say, “Schieb den Karton an die Wand”; in English, you’d need a circumlocution such as “Push the cardboard box all the way to the wall” or “right up to the wall”. “Push it at the wall” wouldn’t have the same meaning, and there’s no *“Push it atto the wall” or *“Push it to at the wall”.

There is “to”, but it’s more similar to German “zu” or Esperanto “al” rather than to German “an” or Esperanto “ĝis” with their connotation of touching at the end.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 10:36 pm

[community profile] shipmanifestos

What is a ship manifesto? It is a formatted style of meta that provides insight as to why someone might like a pairing, or why they believe others might like a pairing. Think of it as something like a case file. Both canon and fanon evidence as to why this ship has sailed.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 01:16 am
I just updated LWPx::ParanoidAgent and Net::SSL on the Dreamhacks server - something that I've needed to do for some time. In the process about seventy bajillion other modules that they relied on needed to be updated, too (mainly to do with HTTP/SSL stuff) so the following modules (and any submodules included in their distribution) are now at their most recent (and the links given lead to the exact versions installed from CPAN):

23 different distributions in total )

As this is rather a lot of modules, some of which can be core to various things that the codebase does, you should restart your Apache if it's currently running; there may be errors otherwise. Also, it's possible that the update of these modules might somehow cause brokenness in some areas on the Dreamhacks server; please do comment here if that's the case (or open a GitHub issue).

(Please note: This only applies to brokenness on the Dreamhacks server. Nothing has changed on, so any issues there should be raised in a Support request as usual.)